I love buffets, any kind. I’ve never met a buffet I didn’t exploit. I used to think it was because I loved food so much. I grew up in several countries and have developed an expansive palette. So I reasoned that I liked buffets because I just like to try lots of different foods.
Recently I’ve discovered that my attraction to buffets may go a little deeper. The truth is, I don’t like to choose among options. I have a very difficult time ordering off a menu. I can’t decide what I want. I check with others to see if we could “share a couple things” so I can try more than one menu item. I look for the combo plate. If the restaurant doesn’t have one, I often attempt to customize the options to get greater choice. Sometimes I just order several appetizers. My last resort tactic is to ask the server to surprise me and choose something for me. This way I can avoid responsibility for my choice.
This habit wreaks havoc on my waistline. And I think it all stems from my difficulty letting go and moving on. I worry that the other person’s food might end up tasting better than mine and then I would be disappointed. I worry that the option I don’t choose might have been the better one. It’s crazy-making!
Avoiding the choice to take action, let go, and move on costs companies billions of dollars a year in the form of lost opportunities, resources wasted in predictive analyses, and bringing in more consultants whose recommendations are never implemented. How is it that people, teams, and organizations can put so much into planning, learning, and organizing yet avoid taking the leap to implementation? We’ve discovered several reasons, and they all lead back to losses that must be authentically experienced to move forward.
Here’s the crux; loss is an emotional issue. It cannot be solved with logic.
Loss of Control
Once I take action, I’ve lost some control over what might happen. If I keep thinking, I don’t have to experience the unknown that accompanies doing. If I keep talking, I can avoid finding out how someone will react to what I’ve shared. If I keep analyzing, I can avoid the loss of control over what happens next. Loss of control is scary and pushes many people and organizations to turn around, re-group, or simply skip Persistence altogether. Do you fear the loss of control that often comes with making a decision?
Loss of Options
Once I choose the turkey breast, I’ve lost the option of nachos. Once we transition to InfusionSoft as our Customer Relationship Management tool, we’ve lost the option of using MailChimp. Once I agree to the price of this car, I’ve lost the option to negotiate a lower price. The loss of “what could have been” keeps many people up at night. Regrets and second-guessing is an energy vampire that keeps us from letting go and moving on.
One year during the Christmas holiday, my oldest daughter needed to make a decision about a summer youth mission trip. The reservations needed to be made and deposits submitted six months in advance. The mission trip conflicted with church camp. The pros and cons were clear. She had everything she needed to make the decision. And she couldn’t. I found her curled up in a ball in her bed, sobbing. I asked her what was wrong. She explained, “If I do the mission trip then I will miss church camp. If I go to camp I’ll miss the mission trip. I can’t decide.”
Do you struggle with the loss of options that will disappear if you make a choice? The only way through is to grieve.
Loss of Certainty
Moving from planning to doing makes it real. It opens up a host of unknown variables. Anything could happen. This uncertainty is frightening. I remember the first time I jumped off the high-diving board at the neighborhood pool. I stood there for what seemed like hours, staring down at the water a million miles away. My friends yelled, taunted, and reassured me. The kids behind me got impatient. I climbed back down the ladder several times, too scared to take the plunge. I re-assessed the situation, asked others about their experience, practiced “slapping my feet” against the water to simulate the impact I might experience. None of it helped. There came a point where nothing else I did could take the fear away. Nothing else could close the gap that remained between what I knew and where I needed to go. I didn’t jump that day.
Here’s the crux; loss is an emotional issue. It cannot be solved with logic. Only authentically experiencing the grief of loss will take you to the next level.
How can leaders apply this in real life?
- Don’t avoid feelings. Give permission to share emotions about the road not taken or the choice not made. It’s OK to be sad. This is an important step in moving forward.
- Accept consequences and the emotions that go with them. Rather than reminisce about what could have been, accept the responsibility for the choice you made by grieving the choice loss associated with the alternatives.
- Play the tape all the way to the end. Play out the scenario associated with each choice option. Have intentional conversations about the control, options, and opportunity lost by the choice you are making. Grieve this loss before moving on.
- Don’t confuse “moving on” with “letting go.” You can coerce someone to move on. A majority vote, intimidation, or guilt will accomplish that. But you can’t force someone to let go. This is an emotional thing that can only be resolved in a safe and accepting environment.
Here are some examples of grieving loss in order to avoid analysis paralysis.
“I will choose to switch IT providers because I know we need more capacity. I realize that the learning curve will be steep and this will be very hard work. I am sad to lose the relationship and dependability we had with our old provider.”
“I am going to let Gary go. I accept the consequences of waiting so long to make the decision. I feel badly about the time and opportunity we lost by delaying an inevitable outcome.”
Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2017
This article was taken from Nate Regier’s new book Conflict Without Casualties: A Field Guide for Leading With Compassionate Accountability. Get your copy today.